New Skin Cancer Treatment Eliminates Almost One Quarter Of Advanced Melanoma Cases, Study Finds

'It's an effective two-pronged attack against the cancer.'

A combination of two immunotherapy drugs can wipe out the most deadly form of skin cancer, even when it has reached an advanced stage, new research suggests.

Scientists said the findings were "very promising". They added that the treatment provides further hope for patients and their families affected by the disease.

Melanoma occurs when the pigment-producing cells that give colour to the skin become cancerous. Symptoms might include a new, unusual growth or a change in an existing mole.

In 2013, around 14,500 people in the UK were diagnosed with the disease, 2,100 of which died.

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In a study looking into new treatments for the disease, 95 skin cancer patients were given a combination of nivolumab and ipilimumab.

Meanwhile 47 patients were given ipilimumab on its own.

Of the 95 patients given the combination treatment, 69% were still alive after two years. Of these, 22% had no detectable tumours remaining.

The treatment is designed to evade the immune system and overcome the ability of certain types of cancer.

Dr Stephen Hodi, director of the Melanoma Centre at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in the US and co-author of the new study, told The Press Association: "These data contribute to our growing understanding of this aggressive cancer and are promising news for advanced melanoma patients.

"In particular, we are seeing further data that evaluate the potential survival benefit of the nivolumab and ipilimumab combination."

While the treatment may prove effective in some cases, it can also cause side effects because of the way it impacts the immune system.

In the trial, adverse effects included rashes, itching, diarrhoea, gut inflammation and raised levels of a marker of liver damage.

Dr James Larkin, consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital, has treated patients with the drugs as part of a separate ongoing trial.

He said: "Both nivolumab and ipilimumab have changed survival expectations in advanced melanoma over the last few years and these latest data show us that combining these two immunotherapies is an effective two-pronged attack against the cancer.

"The overall survival rates observed using the regimen of nivolumab plus ipilimumab are very promising and provide further hope for patients and their families affected by this disease."

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